COOKSTOWN Sinn Féin Councillor Ciarán McElhone has hit out at Ulster Unionist Assembly Member Sandra Overend regarding her recent comments about Gaelscoil Eoghain, Cookstown’s soon-to-be opened Irish medium primary school.
Last week the UPP MLA lambasted the Education Minister’s decision to award grant-aided status to the new primary school, which will open its doors in September. Reacting negatively to the decision Mrs Overend said she “cannot accept” the need for the Irish language school in the town and accused Minister John O’Dowd of wasting resources.
Responding to the MLA’s statement, councillor McElhone described Mrs Overend’s comments as “childish political point scoring”.
“I believe that the statement from Ms Overend demonstrates a great misunderstanding about Irish medium education on her part and is extremely disingenuous to the parents and committee members of Naíscoil Eoghain who have worked tirelessly over the past number of years.
“Within department guidelines an application for grant aided status can be awarded once it can be demonstrated that such a project can proceed successfully.
“It is not merely an agenda to promote the Irish language as Ms Overend states,” said the Sinn Fein councillor.
“Regarding her statement that she cannot accept the need for such a facility in Cookstown demonstrates her own lack of knowledge on this issue.
“Irish medium education is the fastest growing sector within her own constituency which includes Cookstown. In Cookstown Naíscoil Eoghain has experienced significant growth year on year since its opening in 2008”.
Councillor McElhone continued: “Ms Overend has also deliberately tried to confuse two separate issues and try to interlink them as the same to justify her position however the Department of Education has stated that it has a duty to provide Irish medium education once the criteria has been met. It is not a matter of taking money out of other budgets as she suggests”.
“Ms Overend has also stated that people should learn Irish in existing facilities and while I agree with much of this I must highlight that such provision only exists in an adult sphere. This doesn’t account for children who are being taught in this medium hence the need for this proposal”.
“I believe Ms Overend’s comments are an attempt to politicise a proposal that is being offered for the benefit of all in our community regardless of class, colour or creed,” he said.
“Ms. Overend should focus on the more pressing day to day issues that affect Mid Ulster rather than involving herself in childish political point scoring”.